When I told a cultivated London friend that we were planning to go to Berlin in the autumn, he was delighted, told me the Gemäldegalerie was a remarkable collection with hardly anyone there and that he and his wife go as willingly to Berlin as they once went to Paris. Most artists look to Berlin as the place they need to know. Nothing and nobody beats the beauty and splendour of Paris, nor its food, but Berlin’s diversity and accessibility make it a no-frills, no-fuss pleasure. From Bitburger Lager to Augustiner, the beer lives up to its reputation. We made a logistical mistake and took the train from Amsterdam. I wanted to look at the landscape of the northern tier of Europe. You don’t see much of interest and it’s dark by four o’clock.
Although travelling First on Deutsche Bahn, it’s cramped, with little room for luggage. The services are middling at best. More alarmingly, reserviert actually means something. When you get on at Amsterdam, we could only find reserved seats but were confidently assured by a fellow passenger to take no notice and sit wherever we like. About an hour out of Berlin, I began to notice civil evictions of bürgerliche travellers by passengers with reserved seats. I began to dread each stop after Hanover. Where the fuck would you go with your luggage? The god of pathways smiled on us and we made it in one piece to Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
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